Feb 23, 2018

Accusations of Aged Care Home “Drugging” Residents

With short staffing in many aged care facilities, many carers and nurses find themselves thinly spread across a high number of residents.

And to cope with the workload, many residents get overloaded with medication to make them more manageable.

Today, doctors from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have spoken out against the practice.

They say that by sedating the residents, what is really happening is that painful health issues are being masked – which prevents them from seeking proper medical treatment.

“Doctors are asked to prescribe hypnotics for no other reason but to ease the workload and that’s just not appropriate,” AMA President Mic­hael Gannon told The Daily Telegraph.

“Giving some sleeping tablets is not a surrogate for appropriate care.”

The mentality of giving aged care residents sedative and antipsychotics, is based on this idea that they become “easier to handle”. But in doing so, they are really doing more harm than good.

Dr Richard Kidd, Chair of the AMA council of general practice, appeared on Channel 9’s Today morning show to talk about the common, but questionable, aged care practice.

“This isn’t new news really. In 2014 Alzheimers Australia did a study and found that 80 per cent of patients with dementia, that’s 4 out of 5, were on psychotropic or sedative medications,” he said.

Dr Kidd explained that in some situations strong medications were helpful and necessary, for example in people with dementia who were experiencing episodes that caused them to be fearful or act erratically.

Dr Kidd claims that only one in five patients with dementia should be on heavy psychotropic medications, which is considerably lower than the current number of residents that are on such treatments.

However, he made clear that it was completely inappropriate to use medication in such a way to may their job easier at the detriment of the resident’s wellbeing.

“Those are the sorts of times medication can be really almost life-saving for some of them and a great comfort, but, to just use it to make someone easier to manage and stop them walking around in the middle of the night, that’s not appropriate,” he said.

Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow explained to HelloCare that “medication in an aged care facility is prescribed by a doctor in response to a patient’s specific symptoms and administered by staff with appropriate training.”

The federal government have launched an independent inquiry as a result of the numerous claims of elder abuse in aged care facilities.

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  1. I have seen this happen, “oh here w go again we don’t have to put up with this I’ll ask the RN for medication to quite her behaviors, so we can get everyone to bed quicker there is only two staff on duty.” or ” Mrs so and so doesn’t want to go to the bathroom, she’s screaming at staff, medicate her, and we will use the lifter to move her.
    I am sorry but I do not believe that anyone, even people living with dementia should be given psychotropic medications, it just mask’s issues, one of which is short staff, if there were appropriate staffing levels and no, NO clocks in aged care facilities and people could live their lives on their own times there would be less agitation. secondly, if staff had appropriate training in behaviour management they would show more empathy and compassion to the people they are charged with looking after. Our Elders our History, Australia you can do better, if fact you must do better.

    1. I believe this is happening to my Mother. Our G.P can’t be there everyday. I have alerted the G.P I believe the Aged care facility is covering up the fact that they have drugged my Mum. However getting the right support to fight for my Mother isn’t easy. Solicitors fees are outrageous. Previous Solicitors haven’t Acted. Government agencies that are supposed to support and protect are responsible for placing her in these Feral places. Holding the Government Accountable in Queensland is the toughest fight I have been in. In our case,Human Rights Act, ignored, Civil Liberties Act, ignored,Qld Decisions Act, ignored,Prudent Persons Act, ignored, and there are more Acts of law that mean nothing. I have disclosed this as I believe it is in the interest of the general public to be informed. All rights reserved on this publication.

  2. Many patients in aged care cannot articulate their symptoms reliably and Doctors have to rely on nurses notes and observations if family are not included in conversation. Very disingenuous explanation by Pat Sparrow. You only have to see how many errors there are with medication to know how much pressure nurses are under and the constant interruptions. No wonder they beg for prescriptions. Some facilities allow Carers with no nurse training just a medication certificate to administer webster pack doses. What about all the PRN painkillers and sleeping tablets, who ever checks up on those? I have personal experience with the chemist supplying medication to the facility and following up scripts after the event. My mothers dose was dropped from 75mg to 25 mg with ZERO authority.

  3. This happened to my father. He was medicated so he would not complain or make any demands and was left alone most of the time, was not fed or showered and they never did get him up so left to just rot and die.

  4. This makes my heart hurt. Sedating, medicating, hypnotizing, whatever you want to call it, because these facilities are short-staffed means one thing … it’s all about making $$$.
    I’m “Living with Alzheimer’s” and I have my share of bad days, however, shoving drugs into me is not the answer. We are still #ALIVEINSIDE!
    #alzheimersawareness

  5. “Drugging Patients” to ease work loads is a fairly broad statement and one that would panic many family.
    My mother spoke to the facility who cared for my father, who had a CVA and didn’t realise he could no longer walk, would try to get up to walk and fall once requiring sutures to his head. In addition to this my father would always want to “go home”. Chemical restraint was decided on as a family and in consultation with the facility. Primarily it is an issue of SAFETY for the resident and not an issue of making a nurse’s shift easier. It is an unreasonable expectation to “SPECIAL” every aged Care resident with issues similar to my father’s condition. Most are facilities struggle to provide staff to cover all shifts as it is.

    1. I agree Debra Wood. Administering sleeping tablet to those living with Dementia and whom walk around all night is beneficial to them than them being exhausted to even eat the next day etc. At least they are getting some Rem sleep to aid them through the next day.. Some parts of these articles I wholeheartedly agree with, However every Resident is an individual with individual needs and behaviours relating to Dementia. What a lot of people don’t realise, is that these demeaning and negative articles are written by Government Agencies..The same Government who is taking funding away from our most vulnerable beautiful Citizens.. They certainly are covering their backsides. These artcles are painting every Aged Care Home in a very negative light.. The majority do the best they can with the funding and resourses that they have and many Staff members also go well and beyond their job description.

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